Feb 04

Flood Your Car to Save Money

student debt survivorOk, so we didn’t flood our car, but hurricane Sandy sure did. Thanks to an excessive influx of water in the garage we rent, our jeep was partially submerged in 3-feet of the Hudson River. The insurance company deemed it a total loss and we’d been car-free since late October (we just got a new to us car last week, yay!). Although not having a car was initially pretty frustrating, OK it was frustrating everyday, it saved us a decent amount of money during those months.

Ways We Saved Money Without a Car:

  • Gas-No need for gas when you don’t have a car.
  • Shopping- I refuse to pay full retail for anything (well a few things only), so mall shopping or shopping at boutiques is sort of out of the question for me unless there’s a big sale. The places I do love to shop are the TJ Maxx and Home Goods in the suburbs. Because we didn’t have a car we haven’t been able to go since October. I suspect not being able to go to my favorite discount stores saved us a ton of money this Christmas.
  • Groceries- No more impulse shopping and no more of the bf’s, “they were on sale” purchases ended up in our cart. Since our car was destroyed, we did a lot of our grocery shopping online and had the food delivered. We do have a local grocery store that’s sort of walkable, but then we would have had to carry them or get a cab back. So online shopping was actually a good alternative for us.
  • Car Insurance-Until last week, the bf’s policy was, “suspended” since we didn’t actually have a car to insure.
  • Dining Out- We love to go out to eat, but it’s been so damn cold lately I refuse to walk more than 10 blocks at a time. As a result, we haven’t been doing much eating out. We do try to do a “date night” a couple times of month, but we certainly weren’t going out weekly, or driving to our favs in the suburbs like we used to.

Ways We Aren’t Saving:

  • Car Rentals-When the dog needed to get groomed we had to rent a car to drive him there. When the parents/grandparents came to visit we had to rent a car to drive them around (papa can’t walk for long periods of time).
  • Garage Rent-Our garage spot is leased on a yearly basis, so the bf was paying for an expensive parking spot that we weren’t using for 3 months.

Did having a flooded car really save us money? I’m not sure. But we definitely missed the convenience of having a car. Unfortunately his jeep we were driving was paid in full and in really good shape, with really low miles when it was flooded. We were hoping to drive it for many more years to save money. But fortunately, we do have an emergency fund that money enabled us to buy our, new to us, car in cash.

Could you live without a car? Would it save you money?

Image: Is mine. Taken from our condo window during the flood.


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  1. Pauline

    Is there no dog salon closer? I don’t have a car and don’t mind. I do lose a bit of time but the saving is huge. Now we have BF’s car but I use it maybe twice a month. You just get used to it.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      There are a bunch that are walkable to us, unfortunately our pup has an abuse hx (he’s a rescue) and we have only found one groomer who he trusts enough to let her groom him. We’ve tried a bunch but they were no gos (he’s a “fear biter”). My mom always says he’s lucky he ended up with a mental health professional who gets his PTSD, otherwise he probably would have been put down.

  2. Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies

    Did you not have comprehensive insurance on the car? I’m confused why this took a big chunk out of the e-fund since I would think the insurance company would only make you cover the deductible.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      We did, but it was 10 years old and they only gave us $5K for it. So we had (well we wanted) to put more of our own money to get a better used car.

  3. Budget and the Beach

    I don’t think I could live without a car in LA. I already spend so much time at home because I work from home that it’s not so much out of necessity, but I would feel too trapped in my area, and I think not having the freedom to go wherever would be frustrating for me. But oh the amount of gas I would save! I like the idea in theory though!

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      We both take public transport to work, so the only time we really use the car is on the weekends. But you’re so right about the freedom thing. We’re so used to having a car that I felt confined and trapped to not have one.

  4. Kurt @ Money Counselor

    Living without a car can save tons of money and not be too inconvenient if you’ve got a carsharing organization in your community. Combining walking, biking, transit, taxis, conventional rental car, and carsharing to get around is cheaper than owning a car for most of us and works pretty well!

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Yup, we’re really lucky to have the best public transport system in the world (yet we still want a car, go figure). There’s something so psychological about having a car. I guess because the bf grew up in the suburbs and I grew up in the middle of nowhere, we really like having a car. Could we do without one, absolutely. Should we, probably, but it’s something that’s important to us.

  5. My Money Design

    Holy cow that is wild! Is that really your car? Good for you for finding at least a few benefits within this mess! :)

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      That was our neighbor’s car on the street. The shot was taken from the first floor of our building. We rent a garage space (which was in a lower elevation part of town). So when we got to our car 7 days later we could see the water lines up to the windshield.

  6. Tackling Our Debt

    Based on where we live we wouldn’t be able to live without a car. But we do save money (esp in gas) by only going out once or twice a week, and doing everything we need to do on those days.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      We could live without a car, and probably easily if we weren’t used to having one. Most people here don’t have/need cars. We put less than 10k miles on the car in a year (some years considerably less) because we just use the car on weekends to go to the grocery etc.

  7. Hank

    You also saved on car maintenance. Many people don’t think about it as a monthly expense because it happens so infrequently. But, the average is between $50 and $100 or so per month if you were to total up what is typically spent throughout the year divided by 12.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Definitely true, hadn’t even thought about maintenance, which can be pricey, esp. on an older car.

  8. DC @ Young Adult Money

    Unless my employer allowed me to work from home full-time, I could not survive without a car. The only way that it would be possible is through public transportation, which would require me catching a bus at 5:30am and getting home each night at 8:30pm (about 2 1/2 hours each way commute on the bus). It wouldn’t be practical and my quality of life would drop significantly if I was only home for 9 hours a day max, not counting wkends.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Wow 2 1/2 hours each way is a killer commute. Too bad they won’t let you work form home full-time.

  9. Girl Meets Debt

    I am 29 years old and have never owned my own car. Public transit is the norm for me but even public transit isn’t that cheap anymore. I pay $124 for a monthly pass. Yikes!

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Yeah I hear you. The monthly here is $104, and it continues to go up all the time. I had my first car when I was 16, so I’m a little bit attached to having a car, but I could certainly live without one (and did for two years when I was in grad school) if I needed to.

  10. Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank

    We have no public transport near us and so I am in desperate need of my car and wouldn’t survive without it.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Where I grew up there was no public transportation. I started driving when I was 16 (well legally when I was 16, but my dad used to let me drive before then on our road and in the driveway shh).

  11. Mike Collins

    I’m in NJ so I feel your Hurricane Sandy pain. We were ok with just some minor roof damage and part of the fence fell down. Just minutes away from us there were towns that were completely devastated.

    I couldn’t manage for very long without a car. There’s not much within walking distance and I’m not sure how I’d manage to get to work.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      We had a fair bit of building damage, but our unit was fine. Sandy did so much damage to NY/NJ. We feel really fortunate to make it out with relatively “little” damage compared to many. Glad your home was OK.

  12. Greg@ClubThrifty

    Yikes! Sorry about your car.

    When I lived in Chicago, I didn’t have a car and saved a ton of money that way. If you live in a city with good public transportation, I highly recommend this approach:)

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      I’d like to not have a car in theory (no expensive garages, no maintenance etc.), and could totally do it since public transport here is excellent, but being a small town girl at heart, there’s something about driving out to the suburbs sometimes that I really enjoy, and when we have kids public transport will be a lot more difficult to navigate.

  13. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    What a mess! Glad it’s all being resolved, at least. We couldn’t live without a car right now, but do try, like Sicorra, and not go out too much in order to save $$ that way. We live out in the country, so any trips we do take are quite high on mileage. Thus, we grocery shop once a month instead of once a week, try and grow a lot of our own food, etc.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      My parents live in a pretty rural area of Maine. The shop weekly, but I think it’s really more about getting out and about then about the grocery shopping. There’s not much to do in my hometown.

  14. CF

    Yikes! I’m glad you were able to get a new car without too much trouble, but it sucks you had to put some of your own money towards it. We don’t own a car – we use a car sharing service for grocery shops, errands, and trips out to Burnaby. It costs us about $150 per month, gas and insurance is included in the car sharing rate. It’s about 1/3 to 1/4 of what we used to spend on car maintenance, gas and insurance. :)

    We’re lucky that transit is good in Vancouver and we live in an area with lots of amenities within walking distance.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      Everything here is within walking distance, we’re just so used to having a car that it was hard to get used to not having one, plus the stores in the suburbs are cheaper, nicer, and less hectic to shop at. $150 a month is great. We were doing Hertz Connect (I think that’s the name, bf set up an account) and it was like $30 an hour, so that got expensive, esp because you never know what the traffic will be like.

  15. Catherine

    Because of my husbands job and having a baby now we could not live without at least one vehicle but we did get rid of our second car before we got married and are doing fine without it….for now…in 2-3 years we’ll need another as our family continues to grow and we start moving in different directions. our city’s transit system isn’t the worst in the world but it’s not great…it takes me 45-1hr to get to work which I could drive in 25mins.

    1. studentdebtsurvivor.com

      We both commute into work via train (cheaper, quicker and easier). Driving to work then paying for parking in NYC is a nightmare. But for weekends we really enjoy having a car to get out of the city. We don’t have kids now, but I can’t really imagine taking them on the subway. People do it, but it’s a struggle and you’re at the mercy of strangers to help you carry your stroller up and down the stairs.

  16. Elle Sees

    noticed your comment on another blog about sugar scrub. I’m inviting you to stop by my blog, which is full of lots of diy beauty products as well as lots of drugstore stuff. Have a great weekend!

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